Naamah's Blessing

Though it did show signs of greatness akin to those which made the previous Terre d'Ange novels such incredible reads, I felt that Naamah's Kiss turned out to be Jacqueline Carey's weakest Kushiel-related work to date. Given the originality and the quality of its predecessors, Naamah's Kiss and the next two installments had big shoes to fill. Which is quite unfair as far as expectations go, but that's the way love goes.

Weakest installment or not, Naamah's Kiss was nonetheless better than most fantasy titles out there. And its sequel, Naamah's Curse, turned out to be a better balanced read. Indeed, it was another convoluted book full of wonder and sensuality.

Understandably, I was looking forward to discovering how the author would close the show in Naamah's Blessing. And I'm pleased to report that Carey brought this trilogy to a satisfying ending.

Here's the blurb:

Returning to Terre d'Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.

As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée's oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest.

Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes.

As is habitually her wont, Jacqueline Carey's worldbuilding is great. Eschewing the traditional European medieval environment, Carey's creation is a Renaissance era analog and it is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. Previous Terre d'Ange books took us on amazing journeys that enabled readers to discover more about her universe. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, religions, and politics, every installment of Moirin's trilogy was a textured and sophisticated novel that took us to alternate versions of Britain, France, China, Mongolia, Russia, India, and Nepal. Not surprisingly, Naamah's Blessing turned out to be another vast and captivating travelogue which introduced us to Terra Nova, an analog of the New world with alternate versions of Central America and Peru. The author's depiction of the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca cultures was well-done and certainly gave this novel its unique flavor compared to its predecessors.

There was a lot of drama involved in Moirin's return to Terre d'Ange, yet it was nice to see things come full circle in that regard. Scenes featuring young Désirée with Moirin and Bao were emotional and Moirin being named the child's sworn protector added another layer to the already complex relationship between the bear witch and the royal family. But to a certain extent, the tale truly begins when Moirin sails away to the new continent. Readers have always known that they would see Raphael de Mereliot again, that the storyline betwen Moirin and her former lover was not over. But I never expected this. I loved how the author tied up that loose end.

I'm not the only reader who missed the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay early on. Having spent her childhood in isolation in the wilderness, there was an innocence and vulnerability to Moirin, but also a definite strength that Phèdre did not possess at a young age. That resolve got sorely tested in the second volume. During her search for Bao, she often found herself alone and forced to rely on no one but herself. I feel that her harrowing experiences during the search for her beloved and subsequent captivity and flight finally made her come together as a main protagonist. So much so that I stopped comparing her to Phèdre and Imriel, as if Moirin's voice and perspective had finally taken their rightful place in the driver's seat. And it's even more evident in this final installment.

Jacqueline Carey has a knack for creating endearing and memorable secondary characters, and once more she came up with a wonderful cast for Naamah's Blessing. As mentioned, there are some poignant scenes featuring Désirée. But there is also Balthasar Shahrizai and Lianne Tremaine, as well as Moirin's father. There is Eyahue, the randy jungle guide, the ferocious warrior Temilotzin, and the brave Maidens of the Sun. And, as always, Bao, who carries half on Moirin's soul in his heart.

The author continues to write with elegance. As I've said many times, her lyrical prose is something special and I feel it could well be the very best in the genre today. Once more in Naamah's Blessing, her enthralling prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty. And other than Robin Hobb, no one makes her characters suffer as much over the course of a book/series.

Like its predecessor, this novel doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. The rhythm flows well throughout and the ending is a compelling blend of happiness and heartbreak. One can only hope that Moirin and Bao will now make those fat babies. Round as dumplings! God knows they have earned some joy and peace of mind.

When all is said and done, though rewarding and satisfying, Moirin's trilogy couldn't possibly hope to equal or surpass Phèdre and Imriel's tales. Still, the series is well worth reading and is superior to most SFF works on the market today.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe

0 commentaires: